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Why So Many Data Centers?

The U.S, Government Accountability Office (GAO) in its March 2011 report GAO-11-318SP identified opportunities to reduce the potential duplication in government programs.  These programs are usually managed by separate bureaucracies and will most likely operate separate databases, separate servers and possibly separate data centers or server farms.

We have extracted from the GAO a sample listing the number of duplicate government operations as an indicator that can explain why the Federal Government has in place 2,094 Federal Data Centers according to the CIO of the Federal Government, Mr. V. Kundra:

Fragmented Food Safety: 15 Agencies
DoD Organization to Respond to Warfighter Needs:  31 Departments
DoD Organizations for Improvised Explosive Detection: Several
DoD Organizations for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance: Numerous
DoD Organizations for Purchase of Tactical Vehicles: Several
DoD Organizations for Prepositioning Programs: Several
DoD Business Systems Modernization: 2,300 separate investments
Fragmented Economic Development Programs: 80 separate programs as illustrated in the following table:

Fragmented Surface Transportation Programs: 100 separate programs
Fragmented Federal Fleet Energy Programs: in 20 separate Agencies
Fragmented Enterprise Architectures: in more than 27 major Agencies
Fragmentation of Federal Data Centers: 2,094 data centers
Fragmentation Data on Interagency Contracting: Excessive duplication
Ineffective Tax Expenditures and Redundancies: 173 major programs
Modernization of Electronic Health Record: Multiple efforts in VA and DoD
Integration with Nationwide Public Health: 25 major systems
Biodefense Responsibilities: 12 Agencies
FEMA Operations: 17 major programs
Arms Control and Nonproliferation: Two separate bureaus
Domestic Food Assistance Programs: 18 programs
Homelessness Programs: Over 20 programs
Transportation of Disadvantaged Persons: 10 Separate Agencies

Employment and Training Programs: 47 Separate programs
Teacher Quality Programs: 82 Separate programs
Financial Literacy Efforts: 56 programs by 20 different Agencies
Farm Program Payments: Huge number of diverse programs
Improper Payments by 20 Agencies on 70 Programs (partial list):

The 345 page GAO report, summarized only in part in this blog, offers a clue that simple data center consolidation, through virtualization of servers, is not easily accomplished.  The various Agencies and bureaus that operate computers in support of their activities are often connected with legislation dictates that control how a program is executed. The idea of datacenter consolidation involves much more that applying simple technical solutions.

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